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June 2019: Seeming and Being


It hardly seems possible that Sir Humphrey Appleby, the civil service mandarin, was making us laugh in ‘Yes, Minister’ over thirty years ago.  Two things I thought funny at the time were his statements: ‘The truth is something that no-one can show to be a lie’ and ‘only admit to something that people can find out for themselves from elsewhere’.  I’m not so sure that I find these terribly funny nowadays – it seems that they have become a shrewd, if not cynical, commentary on modern behaviour.

The truth/lie statement has possibly developed even further – to the point that exposure as an untruth is not quite so bad if it occurs a little while after the matter was hot news – we might cast our minds back to the Brexit referendum.  As for being honest and open about events, I think we have some clear examples from the Westminster direction, perhaps concerning matters such as claims for expenses.  Our thirst for immediate sensational, or even suggestive, news seems to expand, and material for the investigative journalist multiplies.  Add to this the phenomenal speed with which information (or misinformation) changes hands, and the modern world’s love affair with ‘virtual’ imagery rather than reality: I find myself reminded of the old joke about the three people: one couldn’t tell the truth. One couldn’t tell a lie.  One couldn’t tell the difference.

So, what is it that, rather badly, I’m trying to say?  Simply that there seems to be a big gap between what we seem to be doing compared with what we should really be doing.  I’m sure that can appear in individual lives too.  As it happens, in June we celebrate the feast day of Saints Peter & Paul, two foundations of our faith.  Their festival now coincides with the time the worldwide church considers ways to close the gaps in thinking and practice through an ecumenical approach. Can we, in our own lives, close some gaps between what we do and what we really should be doing?  There are dozens of contexts from which to choose……and perhaps we can move towards more purity of truth and  open-ness with each other